The journalist, art historian, and author Florian Illies was born in 1971 in Schlitz, Upper Hesse, where he also grew up. He wrote his first articles for the school newspaper and a local newspaper, and also completed a traineeship at the »Fuldaer Zeitung«. Illies studied art history and history in Bonn and Oxford until 1998. Beginning in 1991, he worked as a freelancer for the »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung«, where he became the editor of the FAZ feuilleton in 1997. In 1999, he took responsibility for the newly founded Berlin editorial office of the FAZ, »Berliner Seiten«, and then moved to the »Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung« as head of the feuilleton. In 2004, he and his wife founded the »Monopol« magazine for art, literature and lifestyle. He was its editor-in-chief until 2006. In 2008, Illies began working for »ZEIT« as an author and consultant, where he was jointly responsible for the feuilleton and literature section as of 2009, and since 2017 he has been a member of the editorial board of the weekly newspaper. He is a member of the jury of the Henri Nannen Prize. From 2011 to 2018, he was one of the shareholders of the Berlin auction house Villa Grisebach. In 2019 he became the publishing director of Rowohlt Verlag.
With his début »Generation Golf« (2000), a critical portrait of people who were born in West Germany between 1965 and 1975, Illies became widely known as an author of books. In the portrait, he addresses themes of pop culture, nostalgia and the infantility of an »ego society« that appears to have devoted itself to hedonism and brand awareness above all. He continues his humorous analysis in the following volumes »Anleitung zum Unschuldigsein« (2001; tr: Guide to Being Innocent) and »Generation Golf zwei«(2003). After »Ortsgespräch« (2016; tr: Local Call), a memoir about his childhood and youth in the German province, in his historical panorama »1913. Der Sommer des Jahrhunderts« (2012; Eng. »1913. The Year before the Storm«, 2014) Illies looks at the time before the outbreak of World War I. In the chapters, each dedicated to one month, relevant events and anecdotes from politics and culture are presented and sometimes commented ironically, with a particular focus on the living circumstances and relationships of writers and artists at the time. The book, which has been translated into 28 languages, was the best-selling non-fiction book in 2012, and it remained at the number-one spot on the bestseller list of »Der Spiegel« for many weeks in 2013. After »Gerade war der Himmel noch blau« (2017; tr: Just Now the Sky was Blue), a volume of essays on art theory, his most recent book »1913. Was ich unbedingt noch erzählen musste« (2018; tr: 1913: What I Still Have to Say), follows up on his portrayal of the year before the war.
Among other prizes, Illies has been awarded the Axel Springer Prize (1999), the Ludwig Börne Prize (2014) and the Max J. Friedländer Prize (2016). He lives in Berlin.